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St. Louis Cardinals: Kolten Wong vs. Dee Gordon

Kolten Wong had somewhat of a breakout year in 2017. He dealt with injuries throughout the year which put a damper on his season. But when he was on the field, he played like the Kolten Wong that we all thought we’d see a couple years ago. When the season ended I would have thought it was a sure thing that Wong would be back manning second base regularly for the Cardinals again next season. Some recent developments, though, have me unsure about that.

It started with the post season press conference with John Mozeliak, Michael Girsch, and Mike Matheny. When asked if catcher and second base were the only two positions where players were locked in Mo responded “I would say catcher”. I initially thought he just didn’t want to commit to anything this early in the offseason. But a recent rumor surfaced that has me wondering if they aren’t actually trying to upgrade at the position.

In an article by Jon Heyman on Fanrag sports there was a bit on the Cardinals that read:

One Marlins player said he heard word there was talk of interest on the part of the Cardinals, including in Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Brad Ziegler. The Ziegler talk occurred after Trevor Rosenthal went down.”

The Ozuna and Ziegler parts aren’t surprising. We know the Cardinals are looking for both a power hitter and late inning bullpen help. The Dee Gordon part is what is most interesting to me. We heard Mo say that second base isn’t set in stone and now a rumor that they were interested in another second baseman? I’m not saying there’s any fire here but there seems to at least be some smoke. It seems fairly logical that if the Cardinals were acquiring Gordon that Wong would likely be headed to Miami.

The Marlins are looking to shed payroll

We know that Marlins are looking to decrease their payroll significantly after being bought by the Jeter/Sherman group. A Gordon for Wong swap would do just that. Here’s how their contracts shake out:

Wong Gordon
2018 $4M $10.8M
2019 $6.5M $13.3M
2020 $10.25M $13.8M
2021 $12.5M* $14M*
Total Guaranteed $21.75M $38.9M

*2021 is an option year for both players that includes a $1M buyout. Gordon’s option would vest with 600 plate appearances in 2020 or 1200 plate appearances in 2019 and 2020 combined.

Gordon is quite a bit more expensive the next two seasons. Over the course of the next three years the swap would save the Marlins $17.15M. That would go a long way toward cutting the amount of payroll that they need to while still having a pretty good player at second base.

How it benefits the Cardinals

I’m sure a lot of people are wondering why on earth the Cardinals would trade Wong after he just seemed to be finding his stride this season. The answer is simple. They need to make upgrades around the diamond, and Gordon is simply the better all around player.

In the past four seasons Gordon has posted fWAR totals of 3.3, 4.8, 1.0, and 3.3. The 1.0 fWAR came in 2016 when he missed 80 games after being suspended for PED’s.

To put that in perspective, Wong’s highest fWAR total in the major leagues is the 2.4 he posted back in 2015. He likely would have topped that number this season if he had been healthy but he wasn’t and his fWAR was 2.1.

Wong may be a little better at the plate than Gordon but both players appear to be near league average hitters to me. Wong has a career wRC+ of 92 while Gordon’s is 93. Wong’s highest wRC+ of his career came this past season with a 107 and Gordon’s highest of 116 came in 2015. Gordon’s this past season however was just 92.

Where Gordon really stands out is defensively and on the bases. Gordon stole 60 bases in 2017 with a 79% success rate. Wong only stole 8 and was caught twice. Gordon also consistently rates higher in the Fangraphs base running stat called BsR.

Also, as much as we like to praise Wong’s defense because of his ability to make great plays, it never seems to show in the defensive metrics. In 2017 Wong had a -1 DRS and a -1.7 UZR/150. Gordon on the other hand shows to be above average with a 3 DRS and 7.3 UZR/150.

Conclusion

I don’t know that this could be a move that is made straight up, even though it seems like the value would be very close. But I do think if we see a trade between the Marlins and Cardinals, there’s a good chance that these two are involved. The Marlins will get additional payroll relief while the Cardinals get an upgrade at second base. It looks like a very good fit to me.

Thanks for reading

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